Articles Tagged with Alternative Mutual Funds

In a speech given at The New York Times Dealbook Opportunities for Tomorrow Conference in New York at the end of 2014, SEC Chair Mary Jo White detailed an extensive plan to increase the agency’s scrutiny of asset managers. Her speech highlighted many of the important issues currently facing the SEC in regulating the asset management industry and its planned response to those issues.

Chair White began by noting the evolution of the asset management industry and the tools currently utilized to protect investors and their assets. In 1940, when the Investment Advisers Act was first passed, there were a total of $4 billion in assets under management at 51 firms, compared to the now over $63 trillion of assets under management at over 22,000 firms. Chair White also noted that almost half of all U.S. households own mutual funds. In addition to mutual funds, asset managers also increasingly recommend modern, sophisticated products like ETFs and derivatives. Registered funds have significantly increased the size and complexity of derivates used in asset management.
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During the January 7th Practising Law Institute conference on Hedge Fund Compliance and Regulatory Challenges, the Director of the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”), Andrew Bowden, previewed some of the new priorities on which the SEC will focus in 2015. Some of the areas of focus include protecting investors, specifically those in or close to retirement, cyber security, and the use of data analytics to identify potential wrongdoers. One of the other priorities discussed was OCIE’s new initiative to use “presence exams” to examine certain investment advisers that have never been examined. Investment advisers who have been registered with the SEC for three or more years will potentially be selected for a presence exam.

Presence exams are less intensive, shorter exams, taking up about two-thirds the time of a regular SEC examination. These exams tend to be more narrow in scope and focus on specific areas of concern that the SEC may have. In October 2012, SEC staff created presence exams for investment advisers who were required to register with the SEC for the first time because of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). These newly required SEC registrants under Dodd-Frank included, for example, hedge fund advisers with more than $150 million in assets under management. Bowden stated that the SEC performed close to 400 of these exams and that OCIE’s goal to examine 25% of the investment advisers required to register with the SEC under Dodd-Frank by 2014 was met.
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Last month at the American Law Institute’s Conference on Life Insurance Company Products, the chief of the SEC’s Office of Compliance, Inspections, and Examinations (“OCIE”) informed attendees that the agency will increase its focus on variable annuities during 2015. Also attending the conference was the Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management (“DIM”), who discussed his views on how to address concerns created by new trends in variable annuities and the recent growth of alternative mutual funds.

One of the reasons for the increased focus on variable annuities is that broker-dealers are beginning to sell more and more of these products to their clients, said the SEC’s chief of OCIE. As a result, OCIE exams will include discussions with broker-dealers about what the insurance companies are telling them about the products they provide to make sure broker-dealers understand the products they are selling and are accurately explaining the products to their clients.
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